AFCON: Why South Africa is dangerous … Nigeria set for final By Ori Martins

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There is a problem here. And all Nigerians should feel concerned about it.

Of all the three times Nigeria lost to Cameroon in the final games of the African Nations Cup, only the 1984 edition was achieved flawlessly.

Those of 1988 in Morocco and 2000 in Logos were controversially decided and awfully awarded to Cameroon by largely compromised centre referees – Idrisarr Dare of Mauritius and Mourad Dammi of Tunisia.

In 1988, Issa Hayatou had been elected as the new CAF president. To please him, Dare disallowed Henry Nwosu’s beautiful goal and went ahead to award a dubious penalty to Cameroon which Emmanuel Kunde excellently converted.

And in 2000 in Lagos, it was Nigeria versus Cameroon in the final. Hayatou was still CAF president and Dammi unjustfiably disallowed Victor Ikpeba’s penalty even as he spared Rigobert Song whose several vicious tackles on Nwankwo Kanu went unnoticed by the referee.

This CAF president and poor officiating, particularly against Nigeria, symbolically but painfully played out during last year’s Women African Cup of Nations staged in Morocco. CAF’s president now is a South African billionaire, Patrice Motsepe, who incidentally owns Mamelodi Sundowns and he is an in law to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Thus, in Morocco, last year, there was rumoured conspiracy between Morocco the host and South Africa, CAF president’s country, to stop Super Falcons from winning the Women African Cup of Nations. And it worked out perfectly.

To realize that nasty deal, CAF appointed Maria Revet of Mauritius to handle the Red Atlas Lionesses encounter against Super Falcons and African football was brought to disrepute. The plan was to stop Falcons from advancing to the final and Revet offered her full services to that act of infamy.

She targeted two informed Falcons – goal poacher Rasheedat Ajibade and midfield star Halimat Ayinde – and hammered them with red cards while sparing a Lioness who committed worse offences than the two Nigerians did.

The danger here is, if the NFF authorities in Cote I’voire do not wake up to their responsibilities, the CAF president who has been introduced here as a South African, would explore all avenues, contacts and connections via international football diplomacy through the centre referee to work against Nigeria on the semi final day.

Of course, Hayatou did it twice thus Patrice can replicate it.

However, the day belongs to Nigeria. The Super Eagles had traded tackles with South Africa 14 times, winning seven, drawing four and losing three. In all of the three times Nigeria and South Africa had met previously in Nations Cup Finals, Super Eagles had always triumphed.

Moreover, since 1980 when Nigeria lifted the most prestigious football competition in Africa, the Eagles have always smiled home bedecked with the gold medal, at least, once every decade. The time to dance glory is now, going by the fact that the players are in high spirit just as they are in unity and very composed. They are very eager for victory.

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